Major U.S. Airlines Have Dropped Their Change Fees, but Not All Policies Are the Same
Recently, major U.S. airlines, including United, Delta, and more, dropped their change fees to accommodate the unpredictable effects that COVID-19 has had on travel. However, each airline has slightly different policies that passengers should be aware of.
In August, United Airlines took the plunge, eliminating change fees on most economy and premium tickets for travel within the U.S. and a few neighboring countries. The carrier, which used to charge $200 to change domestic travel and $75 to fly standby, also said it would allow all passengers to fly same-day standby for free on both domestic and international routes starting Jan. 1.
Shortly after, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines followed suit, coming up with their own policies to waive change fees for certain routes or allowing customers to fly standby for free, depending on the carrier.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Southwest never charged change fees, instead only charging the difference in fares if someone changed their flight.
While passengers can always cancel a flight they booked within 24 hours of purchasing it (due to a handy policy by the Department of Transportation), airlines set their own rules when it comes to changing at the last minute. And even those committing to permanently waiving change fees have some notable exceptions.
Below, we’ve broken down the current policies for each major U.S. airline so you know exactly what your options are the next time you book.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline has extended its flexible travel policy to all new tickets, including Saver fares, through Dec. 31, 2020.
Alaska Airlines only allows certain tickets to fly standby, including refundable main cabin tickets and first class tickets.
Allegiant Air charges a $75 change fee per segment plus the difference in the airfare for any ticket booked without the carrier’s “TripFlex” option. Changes and cancellations must be made at least seven days before a scheduled departure.
Tickets booked with “TripFlex” can cancel a ticket up to one hour before a flight.
American Airlines eliminated change fees on Aug. 31 for all domestic and short-haul international flights, including to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, plus to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This applies to premium cabin fares and most main cabin tickets, but does not apply to basic economy.
Customers will have to pay the difference in the new fare.
American Airlines will also make flying same-day standby free for all domestic and international flights no matter the type of ticket starting Oct. 1.
Change fees for international flights not covered under the new policy can cost up to $750, according to the airline.
Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Airlines is waiving change fees on all tickets, including basic economy, purchased by Sept. 30, 2020, for travel through Dec. 31, 2020.
Delta Air Lines
On Aug. 31, Delta eliminated change fees for travel within U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for all tickets except basic economy.
In other instances, Delta charges a change fee for non-refundable tickets starting at $200, depending on the length of flight, the location, and the type of fare. Customers have to pay the difference in the new fare.
Delta also offers same-day standby for $75, but basic economy tickets are not eligible.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta has also waived change fees for all domestic and international tickets -- including basic economy -- through the end of the year.
Frontier does not charge a change fee if the change is made at least 60 days before a scheduled flight. If the change is made from 59 to 14 days before a flight, the airline charges $79, and if the change is made within two weeks of the flight (including same-day changes), the airline charges $119. Changes are subject to the difference in fare.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Frontier is waiving change fees for bookings made until Sept. 30. Changes must be made seven or more days before departure.
Hawaiian Airlines eliminated change fees on Sept. 3 for flights between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, international destinations, or within the Hawaiian Islands. Main Cabin Basic fares are not included in the new policy.
Customers have to pay the difference in the new fare.
The airline also offers same-day standby tickets to qualifying Pualani Platinum members, Pualani Gold members, and corporate customers who booked through the Corporate Web Portal.
Due to COVID-19, Hawaiian Airlines is waiving change fees for all flights, including Main Cabin Basic tickets, through the end of the year.
JetBlue charges a different change fee depending on the type of fare booked and the cost of the ticket. Blue and Blue Plus fares cost $75 to change a ticket costing under $100, $100 to change a ticket costing $100 to $149.99, $150 to change a ticket costing $150 to $199.99, and $200 to change a ticket costing $200 or more.
The airline’s Blue Basic Fares are not eligible for changes or cancellations, while Blue Extra fares can be changed for free.
Customers have to pay the difference in the new fare. JetBlue also offers standby tickets for a $75 fee.
Due to the coronavirus, JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees for bookings made through Feb. 28, 2021.
Southwest does not charge a fee to change any fight. Customers have to pay the difference in the new fare.
Spirit Airlines charges $90 to change a flight online. The airline also offers the option to purchase their “Flight Flex” add-on to make a one-time change for free.
Due to COVID-19, Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees for people who book by Sept. 30.
United Airlines eliminated change fees on Aug. 30 for standard economy and premium tickets within the U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, and the Caribbean. This does not apply to basic economy tickets.
Starting Jan 1, 2021, United will also make flying same-day standby free for all customers. Currently, MileagePlus members can make same-day changes for $75, and Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K members can do so for free.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United is waiving change fees for all tickets issued through Dec. 31 for both domestic and international travel. Customers have to pay the difference in the new fare.
Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.